CLEVELAND — In a jaw-dropping turn of events, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has decided to waive his no-trade clause and will sign with the Browns in a trade that includes three first-round picks for the Texans, team officials confirmed Friday.
The Texans confirmed Friday evening that they have agreed to trade Watson and a 2024 fifth-round pick to the Browns for a 2022 first-round pick, 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick, 2023 third-round pick and 2024 fourth-round pick. Watson will also receive a record-breaking fully guaranteed contract from the Browns—a 5-year $230 million deal, sources said.
Texans General Manager Nick Caserio provided this statement Friday: "Earlier today, we agreed to trade Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns. I felt it was the right move for our organization as we head into the new league year focused on building our roster for the 2022 season. Our priority right now is adding talented players to the foundation we have already put in place over the last 15 months and this trade supports that plan. As we navigate through the rest of the offseason, we remain open-minded to all avenues that allow us to improve our roster and add to our program."
The Browns had been pursuing Watson, sending top staff including owner Jimmy Haslam, general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski to Houston on Tuesday to meet with Watson after the quarterback's deposition.
Watson's deposition comes after a grand jury declined to indict him following a police investigation following the filing of 22 civil lawsuits filed by women alleging sexual misconduct. Some of the women in the lawsuit allege Watson exposed himself, purposely touched their hands with his genitals, or forcefully tried to kiss them and perform other sexual acts during separate massage sessions.
While the grand jury's decision meant no criminal charges for Watson at the moment, new evidence could be presented to the grand jury to change that as his depositions continue. In addition to the legal battle ahead of him, Watson also faces possible discipline by the NFL, which could include suspension. That remains to be seen.
Watson had previously met with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers and had a meeting with the Atlanta Falcons the day after meeting with the Browns.
On Thursday, the Browns had been informed that they were out of the running from acquiring Watson, and that he would not be interested in waiving his no-trade clause. However, after additional meetings with the Saints and a meeting with the Atalanta Falcons, Watson continued weighing his options, with the Falcons considered front runners at the time.
Berry and Watson's agent David Mulugheta developed a great relationship and kept in contact through the entire process of the trade. That relationship helped in the long run to win over Watson, who initially took Cleveland out of the running, according to a league source.
Following the Browns' meeting with Watson, quarterback Baker Mayfield took to social media and posted an emotional letter thanking the city and fans for supporting him amid his uncertain future. On Thursday, Mayfield requested a trade from the Browns. The Browns at the time said that they did not plan to accommodate the request.
Now, with Watson's change of heart and plans to sign with the Browns, Mayfield's request will likely be granted soon, pending a deal to come with another team in need of a quarterback, which may include the Seahawks or Colts.
In the meantime, Watson's legal issues will continue as he continues facing the 22 sexual misconduct civil lawsuits, and as the lawsuits unfold, the league will continue investigating the situation.
“Any transaction would have no effect on the NFL’s ongoing and comprehensive investigation of the serious allegations against Deshaun Watson. Nor would it affect his status under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Personal Conduct Policy. If the league’s investigation determines that Watson violated the Personal Conduct Policy, discipline may be imposed pursuant to the policy and the CBA,” an NFL spokesperson told News 5.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport,the Browns and Watson agreed on a base salary of $1 million for 2022, which would address a possible suspension.
Important contract note for Deshaun Watson, who got a 5-year, $230M contract. His base salary for 2022 is $1M, which means if he’s suspended, it’ll come out of that base.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2022
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Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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